Dreaming of a bright, bountiful garden full of colorful roses and cheerful daisies?
Here in Texas, we get the sun to make it happen. When you pick the right types and do a little prep work, you can have an at-home flower fiesta. Here are five tips to grow the prettiest flowers in Central Texas.
1. Choose the Right Types
Some flowers come back year after year, while others only bloom for a single year. Choosing the right types for your garden can give you a bright show of color all year long.
Annuals complete their life cycle in a single year. But even though they don’t last as long, annuals are often some of the most colorful in the garden. Many gardeners like to devote sections of their flowerbeds to these single-season beauties.
Some annuals bloom in spring, some in mid-to-late summer, and others in cool weather. So by planting them at different times during the year, you can ensure a colorful show through both the hot and cold months.
In Texas, sunflowers, zinnias, impatiens, pentas, and some begonias are all annuals. Some northern perennials can also be grown as annuals in Texas.
Perennials come back year after year. They usually die back to the ground in the winter and re-emerge in the springtime. These are very cost-efficient plants, as you can plant them once and enjoy them for years at a time. But since they put more of their “plant energy” into growing strong roots to survive the winter, they often have a shorter growing season and may produce fewer flowers than showy annuals.
Turk’s Cap, Blackfoot daisy, lantana, larkspur, and marigold are just a few of the perennials that do well in Central Texas.
When you’re planning your garden, it’s often a good idea to plant a mix of perennials and annuals, so you’ll always have something blooming.
2. Don’t Ignore the Zones
There’s a reason why the U.S. Department of Agriculture made a handy Plant Hardiness Zones Map. This tool breaks the country down based on the lowest average winter temperatures, and it can help you assess what plants can handle Central Texas.
Here in the Austin area, we’re in Zone 8b. So when choosing your flowers, look for options that include Zone 8 in their ranges. Irises, for example, do best in Zones 3-7, so they’re not a good fit for us. But dahlias and phlox thrive in Zone 8. If you’re growing from seed, most seed packets will list the recommended zones. Or you can go to your local nursery—most independents will almost exclusively stock plants that are zone safe, unless they’re intended to stay indoors.
3. Prep the Soil Before Planting
Soils in Central Texas are often thick and heavy, due to the high clay content. If this is the case in your yard, add some compost to your soil, as well as some sand to help with drainage. Even if your soil isn’t clay-heavy, adding organic matter (like compost or peat moss) can help restore nutrients that will help keep your flowers abundant.
Some flowers are also picky about pH. For example, Grandma’s Yellow Rose, a beautiful rose shrub, prefers slightly acidic soil. If you have your heart set on a flower that’s particular, you’ll need to do a soil test and possibly make some amendments before planting.
4. Water The Soil, Not the Leaves
Once you’ve planted your garden, your primary job is to keep your flowers well-watered in our hot, dry climate. But before you grab the hose and start dousing the leaves and flowers of your plants, read this.
Spraying your plants from the top can encourage fungal growth on the leaves. Plus, it’s wasteful. The plant doesn’t absorb any water through its leaves or blooms—just from the roots. So water at the soil level instead. A drip irrigation hose is a great way to give plants the deep drink they want. Just turn it on and let it dribble for 20-30 minutes.
It’s also a good idea to water your plants either early in the morning or around sunset. When the sun’s rays and heat are at their peak, much of the water in the soil will evaporate before it reaches the roots.
Once established, flowers in the ground will probably be happy with every other or every third day watering. But potted flowers dry out more quickly, so you may need to water them daily.
5. Deadhead (Some of) Your Flowers
To “deadhead” is simply to trim off the dead flower heads throughout the growing season. This has two benefits. First, it makes the plant look more attractive. And second, it can encourage the plant to flower again. As the zinnias get trimmed at our spring flower festival, for example, they continue to re-bloom, making a colorful display throughout the whole season.
To do, trim off the dying flowers just below the bud. You can pinch them off with your fingers, or use a pair of garden shears.
But not all flowers benefit from deadheading. Do a little research on the specific plants in your garden to ensure that you should be trimming them.
PS: If you cut yourself a bouquet, follow these tips to keep your flowers fresh.
Come See the Flowers in Bastrop!
We’re gearing up for spring on the farm, and that means FLOWERS. We’ve planted thousands and thousands of zinnias, sunflowers, and more, and we expect a rich bloom this spring. Be the first to find out about festival dates and ticket sales by signing up for our emails!